Common Sports Injuries In Kids

Girl with ankle injuryThere are preventative measures parents can take to enable children to spend more time enjoying sport and less time sidelined with an injury, writes Mark Brown.

While it's important to encourage your child to be physically active, it's also important to teach them to follow the rules and play safely.

What Are The Common Sports Injuries In Kids?
Sprains and strains are the most common sports injuries. A sprain is an injury to a ligament (a band of tough, fibrous tissue connecting two or more bones at a joint and preventing excessive movement of the joint). A strain is an injury to a muscle or tendon.

Heat-related illness is also common, as children perspire less than adults and require a higher core body temperature to trigger sweating, which helps cool them down. Other less-common sports injuries include broken bones, dental and eye injuries, torn ligaments, neck and spinal injuries and repetitive-strain injuries.

What Are The Long-term Effects Of These Injuries?
Some sports injuries can affect the growth plate, an area of developing tissues at the end of long bones in children and adolescents. When growth completes during adolescence, this plate is replaced by solid bone. It is important to seek medical advice if the growth plate is injured.

What Are The Most Popular Sports And What Injuries Are Common In Each Sport?
The top five most popular boys' sports and their common injuries are:
• Soccer (outdoor): bruising, sprains, strains, fractures and dislocations.
• Swimming: tissue damage from repetitive use, torn, cut or punctured skin, sprains, strains and damage to the skin surface.
• Australian Rules football: bruises, sprains, strains, pulled muscles and tears to soft tissues such as ligaments.
• Cricket (outdoor): strains, sprains, fractures, bruising, and torn, cut or punctured skin.
• Tennis: sprains, strains and tissue damage from repetitive use.

The top five most popular girls' sports and their common injuries are:
• Swimming: tissue damage from repetitive use, torn, cut or punctured skin, sprains, strains and damage to the skin surface.
• Netball: sprains, bruising, fractures and dislocations.
• Gymnastics: soft-tissue sprains and strains.
• Basketball: ankle sprains.
• Tennis: sprains, strains and tissue damage from repetitive use.

How Can Sport Injuries Be Prevented?
Parents can prepare children for activity and help them avoid injury by:
• Teaching them to stretch, warm up by starting their activity at a slower speed, then cool down at the end with two to three minutes of light jogging or walking.
• Making sure children are hydrated before, during and after activity. Children should drink at least two to three glasses of water 30 to 60 minutes before activity, one glass (200ml) every 10 to 15 minutes during activity, and enough to fully rehydrate after activity. To encourage hydration, give children a drink bottle they can regularly refill.
• Providing children with protective equipment such as wrist, elbow and knee guards, shin pads, shoulder padding and body protectors, helmets, ankle taping and braces, gloves, mouthguards and correctly fitted footwear. Make sure equipment is the right size, worn at all times, regularly checked and maintained, tried out before competition and used according to the manufacturer's guidelines.
• Assessing weather conditions and providing children with appropriate clothing. On hot days, children should wear light-coloured and lightweight clothing, sunglasses, sunscreen and a hat. On hot days discourage children from activity when the temperature is highest. On cold days, dress children in layers to trap heat and prevent heat loss.
• Teaching children sports safety. Show children the correct way to use sporting equipment, supervise them until they are confident and capable, check the playing area to remove potential hazards and inform teachers of any medical conditions children may have.
The best way to encourage children to practise sports safety is by parents practising it themselves.

How Long Should Kids Take To Recover From A Sports Injury?
Treatments for sports-related injuries vary. But if your child suffers a soft-tissue injury (such as a sprain or strain) or a bone injury, the best immediate treatment is RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation). Seek professional treatment for obvious fractures or dislocation of joints, prolonged swelling, or prolonged or severe pain.


Mark Brown is a sports physiotherapist and executive officer of the Sports Medicine Association in Queensland.

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